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How To Hack Béarnaise, A Mother Of A French Sauce

Frederik de Pue whisks mayonnaise, instead of raw eggs, into his bearnaise sauce.
Ted Robbins

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part ofWeekend Edition 's Do Try This At Home series, chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: A stress-free way to make a classic — and unruly — French sauce that's a variation of hollandaise.

The Chef:

Frederik de Pue was born and raised in Belgium and trained in French cooking with some of Europe's finest chefs. When he moved to Washington, D.C., he worked as executive chef to the Ambassador for the European Commission Delegation.

These days, he owns and runs a catering business. (Full disclosure: He's been catering wedding anniversary dinners for Nina Totenberg and her husband David Reines for the last 14 years.)

As a personal chef and caterer, he says he has had to invent ways to prepare gourmet meals for a lot of people under difficult circumstances. He came up with his hack for an easier — and stable — béarnaise sauce when a bride at an outdoor wedding he catered insisted on the sauce.

"I was in a field and it was 102 degrees outside," says de Pue. "And I needed the béarnaise for 100 people, so I came up with this recipe to make it easier. I've been making it since, and people really think it's actually a real béarnaise."

The Hard Way

Béarnaise is a variation on hollandaise, one of the five "mother" sauces in French haute-cuisine, according to Escoffier Online. It is a traditional sauce for steak. Normally, it involves combining clarified butter with egg yolks and the other ingredients. But it can be hard to keep them stable as the butter and eggs can easily separate.

Traditionally, the sauce is made using a piece of equipment called bain-marie used to heat things gently and gradually to a fixed temperature. And it has to be eaten right away because of the raw egg.

With de Pue's hack, you don't need special equipment. And the sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or longer.

The Hack

This béarnaise involves mayonnaise, so de Pue says you don't need a bain-marienor do you have to worry about the raw egg and melted butter separating. By using turmeric for coloring, it looks just like the real thing.


6 tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 large shallot, chopped finely

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar



1/2 teaspoon turmeric

4 tablespoons chopped tarragon


1 tablespoons whipped cream

Start off by placing the finely chopped shallot in a small saucepan and add the red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a low simmer for about 10 minutes. The shallots needs to become transparent and must have absorbed all the vinegar. Put aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Chef Frederik de Pue eats dinner with NPR's Nina Totenberg and her husband David Reines.
Emily Jan / NPR
Chef Frederik de Pue eats dinner with NPR's Nina Totenberg and her husband David Reines.

In bowl, add mayonnaise, a pinch of salt, white pepper, turmeric and tarragon. Mix well and little by little add the shallot mix; this is where you decide if you like it more acidic or not. Add a little drops of warm water to give the sauce a smooth finish. Once seasoned, add the whipped heavy cream to the sauce and carefully fold the cream with wooden spoon.

The Plate

Béarnaise is classically served with steak with French fries, or steak frite. Since it's tart, it can also accompany chicken or fish.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.
As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.
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